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The primary keystone habit is regular exercise. People who exercise habitually start changing other unrelated patterns in their lives, even unknowingly. They eat better, use their credit card less, are more productive at work and more patient.
Food journaling is another keystone habit. Just write down everything you eat, every day.
Research shows we don’t use much willpower when something is a habit.
Build new habits by manipulating your environment so as to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard. Remove the cookies from eyesight and put your running shoes next to the bed.
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Building willpower is similar to building muscle. Continually exercising without giving yourself a break is not the best way to increase your strength or performance.
Imagination can blunt the cravings that erode your self-control.
If you imagine lying on a peaceful beach, your body will respond by relaxing. If you imagine being late for an important meeting, your body will tense in response. Use this to your advantage in building willpower.
You can even use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts away.
Every time that unwanted thought occupies your mind, consciously think about something pleasant instead.
The willpower response is a reaction to an internal conflict. You want to do one thing, but know you shouldn’t. Or you know you should do something, but you’d rather do nothing.
The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps us with things like decision-making and regulating our behavior, needs to be looked after.
Feed your brain with good-quality food so it has enough energy to do its job and get enough sleep.
Willpower is like a muscle—it can get exhausted by overuse, but we might be able to strengthen our willpower by training it.
At the top of your to-do list, put a couple of daunting, if not impossible, tasks that are vaguely important-sounding (but really aren’t) and seem to have deadlines (but really don’t).
A dash is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute.
The first thing is to take one minute and just write down the steps you need to do to finish the task - just a rough draft, at first, and that’s it.
Now there is nothing else to think about, and there is no way to screw this task up. Everything is laid out and you can just start working on it.
First, give your friend $100. If you get the task done by 5 PM, you get your $100 back. If it doesn’t, you lose the $100.
Or make it $200 that the friend doesn’t keep — they donate it to some weird organizations, in your name.
Get the picture? That’s a commitment device.